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18 February 2021
Parliament has passed temporary legislation which facilitates the signing of certain documents by removing the requirement that a witness be in the immediate physical presence of the person signing. This step, which follows previous regulations introduced in April 2020 to allow remote notarisation, seeks to address the challenges associated with social distancing and other measures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (2017 Revision), any deed or instrument under seal executed by an individual in their own capacity (as opposed to on behalf of a company or other organisation) must be signed:
Existing jurisprudence clearly indicated that these provisions would be interpreted so as to require immediate physical presence, so that the use of videoconferencing facilities was not available for the purpose of the act of witnessing.
The Property Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act 2020 provides that until at least 16 April 2022, 'presence' includes virtual presence. A person is in the 'virtual presence' of another if, using communication technology (ie, any electronic device or process that facilitates communication of both visual images and audio in real time), both persons can contemporaneously see, hear and speak to each other. For example, this could be via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or another similar communication system.
Where an individual, or another person at the individual's direction, signs a deed or instrument in the virtual presence of a witness:
In practical terms, witnesses should, wherever possible:
In this manner, a single electronic record will bear both signatures, providing the clearest evidence possible.
Importantly, the rule change does not apply to the signing of wills. Alternative solutions exist in those circumstances (for further details please see "Putting a will in place during the COVID-19 pandemic").
Nevertheless, this new legislation, along with the broadly equivalent regulations pertaining to remote notarisation, is welcome and will ensure that the Cayman financial services industry continues to operate as efficiently as possible, particularly at a time when travel and meeting in person is difficult.
For further information on this topic please contact Fraser Allister or Samantha Conolly at Ogier by telephone (+1 345 949 9876) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Ogier website can be accessed at www.ogier.com.
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